GUILDERLAND CENTER — In recent weeks, Shenenendehowa made changes to bolster its defense.
“And defense wins championships,” Shenendehowa senior J.T. Sterle said after Friday night’s 35-13 win for the Plainsmen against Guilderland.
After posting back-to-back shutouts, Shenendehowa’s defense made a number of big plays in the Plainsmen’s third consecutive Section II Class AA football victory. Guilderland only had 150 yards of total offense against Shenendehowa, while the Plainsmen defense forced three turnovers in the second half. Seniors Mike Augeri and Ben Brown each recovered fumbles for Shenendehowa, while senior Josh Szwarcberg had an interception.
“It’s a total team effort,” said Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson, whose defense received stellar outings from a number of players, including Sterle, sophomore Brandon Farr and senior Patrick McCane.
Guilderland and Shenendehowa were tied at 7 at halftime, but the Plainsmen scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. Senior Billy Beach went 59 yards on the third quarter’s first play from scrimmage for a touchdown, and Shenendehowa junior Brody Vincenzi found Beach for a pair of touchdown passes later in the period.
“Billy’s a beast. He runs by guys. He does all the work. I just put the ball out there for him,” Vincenzi said of Beach, who rushed for 109 yards and had 77 receiving yards.
Guilderland senior Chris Ardito had a short touchdown rush in the fourth quarter, which Vincenzi later answered with a touchdown pass to junior Dustin Lewis. Vincenzi finished 6 of 11 passing for 135 yards.
Shenendehowa also received a touchdown pass from Evan Bean when the senior — on a double-reverse pass — found Szwarcberg for a 44-yard score in the second quarter.
“We’ve been practicing that play since the offseason,” Szwarcberg said. “I knew we’d executed it because we’d worked on it so much. When the time came for it, I knew it’d be a touchdown.”
Guilderland answered that touchdown with a 30-yard run from senior Vin Lia on a fourth-and-11 with only seconds to play in the first half, but Shenendehowa rolled after halftime in a matchup of squads that had each previously lost to undefeated Shaker. Guilderland (3-2, 3-2) has remaining league games against Saratoga Springs, CBA and Colonie, while Shenendehowa (4-1, 4-1) has Class AA games left against CBA and Saratoga Springs sandwiched around a road game at Class A’s Averill Park.
Into the regular season’s final weeks, Shenendehowa brings a revamped defense. In recent weeks, the Plainsmen have shifted several players to playing nearly exclusively on defense, such as McCane, who was a fixture Friday night in the Guilderland backfield.
“He has a really high motor, and this has freed him up on defense to get after the quarterback,” Clawson said.
The switch, too, has allowed the Plainsmen defense more time together during practices.
“They’ve been practicing more — and practicing smarter,” Clawson said.
While Shenendehowa’s defense caused a few turnovers and made a number of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, the Plainsmen’s best defensive moments perhaps came midway through the first half. After a special-teams miscue by Shenendehowa allowed Guilderland’s offense to start from the Plainsmen 7, the Dutchmen were only able to gain two yards before attempting a field goal that missed from 22 yards.
“When we get those stops,” Szwarcberg said, “it changes the whole game.”
Shenendehowa 0 7 21 7 — 35
Guilderland 0 7 0 6 — 13
S — Szwarcberg 44 pass from Bean (Ranze kick)
G — Lia 30 run (Ardito kick)
S — Beach 59 run (Ranze kick)
S — Beach 38 pass from Vincenzi (Ranze kick)
S — Beach 39 pass from Vincenzi (Ranze kick)
G — Ardito 4 run (Conversion failed)
S — Lewis 45 pass from Vincenzi (Ranze kick)